When your greatest incentive to return from knee surgery is to begin serving a 20-game suspension for using a banned substance, you know you’ve had a lousy season.
But that’s how things have gone for center Joakim Noah in his first season with the New York Knicks. He apologized Tuesday to the team and its fans specifically for violating the NBA’s collectively bargaining drug policy, if not for the disappointing times they’ve all spent together in the first year of Noah’s four-year, $72 million free-agent contract.
Noah met with reporters and talked about his hope of being medically cleared to face Miami at Madison Square Garden Wednesday, not to play but to start the clock on his suspension. Here is a portion of Ian Begley’s ESPN.com report:
"I made a mistake. It was a tough year for me, for this team," Noah said after returning to practice Tuesday. "... I let a lot of people down. It was a mistake. And I gotta learn from it and bounce back. This is a tough moment and I'm going to learn from it."
Noah, 32, tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement -- selective androgen receptor modulator LGD-4033 -- that is banned under the NBA's current collective bargaining agreement. He said the supplement was not provided by the Knicks; it was an over-the-counter supplement the he took while trying to rehab from an injury.
"I tried to take a supplement to help me with everything that I was going through," Noah said, intimating that he took it while rehabbing from a hamstring injury he suffered in early February. "I've gone through a lot of injuries and I tried to take something to help me and it backfired.
"So I know it didn't come from a bad place. I was working with the league on this for a while. I think that what I got punished for – 20 games – is severe, but it is what it is, and I've got to bounce back."
The suspension will start when Noah, who has not played since Feb. 4 and had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Feb. 27 to remove loose fragments of cartilage or bone, is "eligible and physically able to play" in either a regular season or playoff game, the NBA said.
Noah, who was initially expected to miss the rest of the season, has been cleared by Knicks doctors to play, but he needs to be cleared by an independent doctor from the NBA before returning to the active roster. If he is cleared to return before Wednesday's game, Noah will serve eight games this season and will miss the first 12 games of the 2017-18 season.
After finishing fourth in MVP voting three seasons ago while with Chicago, Noah has been limited by injuries to 67, 29 and 46 games. He will end 2016-17 having appeared in 46 games, averaging 5.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists. The Knicks’ record in games Noah has played is about the same (17-29, .369) as in the games he has missed (11-17, .393).